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MLSE and Universal on smart social media

Two giant players in their respective industries: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent of successful franchises like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors, and Universal Music, home to Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Rihanna and others. Last night at Pilot PMR headquarters, John McCauley, Director of Marketing at MLSE and Lindsay Hyslop, Associate Manager of Digital Marketing at Universal Music, sat down with us and our guests to talk smart social.

This Co-Pilot event, titled, “Taylor Swift is my Co-Pilot” after one of today’s masterful social media brands, delved into the choices and processes brands go through when choosing which social media to pursue to reach their goals.

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“I don’t care how many retweets or favourites I get, the point is to create enough buzz to lead people to our own platform.”

John McCauley is no stranger to enthusiastic social activity, especially when dealing with sports fans. Conversation across all channels is great, but when launching TMLTalk Live, John was faced with turning social fans into audiences for a new brand publishing platform. By realizing that Twitter’s instantaneous feed would be the best fit to lead into a live publishing format, John focussed on creating hype around conversations on popular handles with the hashtag #tmltalk. Though Twitter cannot monetize content, using the social currency of a massive following, John was able to publicize and redirect audiences to a platform that could provide a return on investment for MLSE.

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“We started with Facebook, but it let us expand into all of these great things.”

Brands often want it all when heading into the world of digital. Equipped with a social media and website checklist, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spreading your human and monetary resources too thin. When Linsdsay realized that separating music fans by genre let them target audiences most accurately, she developed Country Voice, Canada’s only Country-music platform. Facebook was the chosen social media because it allowed for all the content mediums and social interactions Universal required, and due to smaller budgets, efforts were concentrated on one platform. However, with direct strategic objectives and great content, that following quickly grew to spawn a website, live events, contests, and a Youtube channel.

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“It’s fine to be wary of things going wrong on social, but if you’re too wary, then just don’t be on social.”

Social conversations between community managers in John’s team have been mentioned in the media, and not always in a positive light, but he’s not tempted to err on the side of caution. “The spontaneity and natural conversation creates the buzz. No one cares about canned content,” he says. And, even in controversy, the press is worthwhile. John isn’t fazed when something seemingly goes wrong, because even then there is an upside in driving eyes to the content and channels to which MLSE wants to point its social traffic.

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“We didn’t have much budget, but we did have great assets and grew our organic following by 30,000 overnight.”

It’s hard for any brand to constantly pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into social media advertising to gain a following. The strategy has to be long-tailed and result in value beyond community, but the loud content environment of the few big social players like Facebook make this even more difficult. While Lindsay was not handed big budgets for her Country Voice project, she did have access to Universal’s large and impressive roster of artists. Instead of paying for attention, Lindsay relied on the networks of followers she already had to spread the word about exclusive access, contests, events and other “cool” factors that fired up her social currency and grew it exponentially.

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Special thanks to Beau’s beer for supplying organic beer for the event. Stay tuned for more info about our next Co-Pilot – What To Do When You’ve Been Hacked. To receive an invite, please make sure to sign up to our newsletter.


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